Growing up one of the constant staples of any family experience that involved relatives was my uncle Ted carrying a camcorder around. That's right, he was that guy that always seemed to be recording during holidays, birthdays, vacations, and any other trips we were on. My family was also very close growing up and my cousins were very much like siblings to us so we shared a lot of those events. So a few years ago I got curious about what might have happened to all of those recordings and reached out to my uncle about the status. After all, with a full-fledged setup in Reclaim Video perhaps I could start a process to archive some of them. As it turns out it was already a project on his mind as well and he had already purchased a capture card to convert them all. He transferred them all to DVD and then got them as files on the computer but a few months ago he was stuck at that point with large files that made up the contents of an entire tape without any sense of how to edit them. I was more than happy to take over at that point.

I knew going into this project that I wanted to have a private space where close family, the folks actually in the videos and their families, could watch and enjoy them. I figured aspects of it would be self-hosted but hosting video can often be a bear and there aren't a lot of great prospects for open source or even paid gallery software that handles video well. Turning to third parties YouTube was obviously out, while they have some privacy controls at best you can create a private link and send it to people but once they have it they can send it on to whomever they want. I settled on Vimeo which, while not free, offered the kind of granular privacy I needed in that I could make a video completely private and restrict embedding by domain so that I'd be able to embed the video in a self-hosted site and be assured that it would remain there behind a login. With that aspect solved I decided to move forward with WordPress as the platform because I figured I could leverage a few plugins and a good theme to build it out.

For the logins I knew going in that no one was going to remember or use Yet Another Username and Password(tm). The last thing I wanted was to play support boy resetting accounts and fielding questions on how to get logged in to my grandmother. So the natural use case here was to integrate Facebook logins which killed two birds with one stone: people can easily login to the site and now I have a way of ensuring that the person requesting the account is who they say they are since it's linked to a Facebook profile. The plugin I used here was Nextend Social Login and I had to go through the process of setting up an API key/secret with FB but nothing too crazy. When someone logs in for the first time it will automatically create the account, otherwise it links up with the existing account in WP and they're in. I also ended up using some CSS to hide the WP login form so that it only shows the Facebook option:

Now of course I didn't want just anyone from Facebook to be able to access the site so I also added New User Approve which made the approval process quite straightforward. When a person logs in I get an email, check and approve the account, and they're all set. Other than that I removed Dashboard access for all non-admins and setup Peter's Login Redirect to send them to the homepage after logging in or logging out.

I found a decent theme called Focus from SiteOrigin that had built in support for embedding Vimeo and highlighting it in a post. So now the process to put a video up involves the following:

  1. Some light editing in iMovie where I clean up audio, trim to specific points, and publish to Vimeo directly as a private video.
  2. Set the video in Vimeo to be accessible only by private link and domain and get the URL.
  3. Paste the URL into a new post along with a title and description, tags for the year it was recorded and family surnames, and a featured image from the video. Publish.

I added Jetpack to the site mostly for now to use their subscribe feature as I find it's one of the best and straightforward ones to allow people to keep track of when new videos are added. Comments are enabled on each post and since the site is completely private I don't have to worry about spam at all.

It's been incredibly rewarding not only to get to go back and watch this footage (just one example, I got to see Billy Bob and the Rockafire Explosion at a Showbiz Pizza Place and even spotted a few classic arcade games from a video recorded in 1989!) but also to use my knowledge of web publishing to quickly put something like this together and allow a space to share these with our family. You can imagine how special it was for my father to see a video of his mother greeting us all from her house and holding up clothes she had bought for her grandchildren (me and my siblings, who were 4-6 at the time), or for my cousin to see a video of a picnic in which her father who is now passed away is carrying on and having a good time with family. This stuff is absolutely priceless and it's an honor to be able to set it up for a decent shot at sustaining for the future.